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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

On Target

On a day when the police (not unfairly, as it happens) complains about their work being stymied by a pointlessly 'target-driven culture' (apparently the crunch - so to speak - came when they found themselves arresting a teenager for 'throwing a cucumber slice') we ironically find ourselves looking at a 'target' story that is actually cautiously positive.

According to Cancer Research, "by 2020 two-thirds of people diagnosed with cancer should still be alive after five years."

I'm the first to concede that this figure will come as little comfort to those already affected by or suffering from cancer, and frankly, what we really want and need is an out-and-out cure. However, in a world that so often seems unnecessarily, unrelentingly cruel and harsh, the fact that there is hope and optimism for the future being voiced by those people working at eliminating the evil bastard that is cancer should be celebrated as an important step in the right direction.

"By 2020 two-thirds of people diagnosed with cancer should still be alive after five years, say Cancer Research UK.

The goal is one of ten ambitious targets set out by the charity for the future of cancer care.

It comes as figures show a patient with cancer now has a 46.2% chance of being alive ten years after diagnosis compared with 23.6% 30 years ago.

The Department of Health backed the targets and said work was needed to further improve cancer prognosis.

Increased survival over the past three decades can be attributed to earlier detection of cancer, greater use of specialist surgery, cancer screening programmes and advances in treatments.

A team from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that for all cancers combined the ten year survival rose by 11% in the past decade and five-year survival rates increased from 39.7% to 49.6% over the same period.

But survival ranges from just 2.5% for pancreatic cancer to 95% for testicular cancer.

Two-thirds of patients with breast cancer are alive 20 years after diagnosis but there has been no improvement in survival for lung cancer.

Professor Michel Coleman who led the study said within the figures there were success stories and disappointments.

"We don't generally use an overall survival figure for cancer, partly because it is not a helpful number to individual cancer patients anxious to know their own chances.

"But since the new goals relate to cancer as a whole, we feel it is important to define a simple baseline for watching progress."

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